The Freshmen Fifteen is a phenomenon so terrifying and well-known to those entering college that it warrants capitalization. Incoming freshmen have been endlessly warned about putting on the pounds during their first year at school and have probably accrued more advice on how to avoid it than they know what to do with. However, upon arriving at campus and finding SPAC a mile away and hot cookies down the hall, it becomes all too easy to forget the tips — and forget about keeping your hot summer bod.
The good news is that the freshman fifteen is somewhat of a myth. Or at least eight of the pounds are a myth, anyways. A 2006 study at Rutgers University found that students averaged only a seven-pound gain in the first year. The bad news? Seven pounds is still a significant enough gain to indicate unhealthy diet and exercise patterns, and probably enough to make your pants not fit. But you can avoid this rather scary phenomenon. Here are eight tips to prevent the slide into a lazy college lifestyle and instead, stay fit and healthy.
Problem: A trip to the dining hall means loading up your tray with a taste of everything… and going back for seconds.
Solution: Campus dietitian Megan J. Campbell says to avoid grabbing more food than you can eat by taking a look at all of the items offered in the cafeteria, then going around to make your selections. Doing so not only helps to avoid excess food waste, but also ensures that you only pick the foods you really want to eat. NuCuisine has also rolled out trayless dining as part of their sustainable dining program, which also reportedly decreases both the amount of food eaten and wasted.
Problem: Your idea of ‘healthy eating’ is having a diet soda and a small side of fries instead of a large.
Solution: Start with a salad. Yes, it’s the classic diet food, but it can be tastier than you’d expect, and Northwestern dining halls offer many options. “At lunch and dinner, there is an extensive salad bar with several different types of greens, chopped vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dressings,” Campbell says. Give it a try; a salad is much more filling than it looks, and with the multitudes of toppings available at each dining hall, you’re almost guaranteed to find some combination of toppings you love.
Problem: You tried a salad and it is definitely not for you.
Solution: If you’re not a salad person, Campbell recommends unseasoned steamed vegetables, which are cooked without salt, spices, or butter. They are available at every meal, and are balanced out nicely with a piece of fruit.
Problem: You eat your fair share of salads, but feel clueless as to what exactly a “balanced meal” consists of.
Solution: A balanced meal, according to Campbell, should have your plate about half filled with fruits and veggies, one quarter with a protein, such as chicken, fish, tofu or beans, and the rest with grains and starch — fill up on rice, pasta or bread.
Problem: Your daily exercise consists of walking up the three flights of stairs to your dorm room after class and trekking to the dining hall.
Solution: If you really feel like you don’t have time to work out in the gym, try and find ways to sneak exercise into your daily routine. Leave for class a little earlier (even if it is a little painful to lose those ten minutes of sleep) and take the long route to class. After all, that calorie-burning adds up!
Problem: You can’t resist the temptation to munch on the junk food you keep in your room.
Solution: Yes, that box of chocolate-chip cookies or that bag of chips looks great on your shelf, but resist. Instead, stock your room with foods that will fill you up and taste good when you absolutely need to snack on something, like dried fruits, yogurts and nuts. If you must have something sweet, try keeping 100-calorie packs on hand; they come in tons of varieties and can relieve a sweet tooth in a pinch. If you’re a chocoholic, a palm-full of chocolate chips can be a lifesaver. Just make sure it’s only one handful.
Problem: You drank too much, and now the gym seems farther away than Timbuktu and all you want is Taco Bell.
Solution: Alcohol is a lot higher in calories than you might guess. After a night out, try not to consume more calories than usual for the next 48 hours to curb the effects of excessive intake. Eating foods like eggs, fresh fruits (bananas in particular), vegetables and of course, drinking lots of water, can help that hangover you’ve got going. SPAC may not be the first place you’d think of going to recover, but physical activity will actually raise your energy level, as counter-intuitive as it may seem. Heavy cardio isn’t a great idea, as alcohol is a diuretic and causes dehydration — not to mention that you probably aren’t your most agile on a treadmill with a hangover. Stick to activities like yoga and stretching instead.
Problem: You’re tired of dining hall food and feel like you’re in a rut.
Solution: If you just can’t drag yourself to eat dorm food for one more meal, you don’t have to go to Burger King. Venture into Evanston, which just happens to be the “dining capital of the North Shore.” The extra walking burns calories, and there are a lot of healthy options around town. Even Chipotle can be good for you if you know how to order.